“A Poetic Vision of God.” On an Astounding 1903 Letter by Rainer Maria Rilke
From the History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today? Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
Following Jacke’s discussion with Stephen Mitchell about the first Christmas, Jacke takes a look at a special letter by Rainer Maria Rilke (which Mitchell translated). In this letter, written in Rome on December 23, 1903, the famed poet explores the difference between childlike wonder and grownup concerns, working his way toward a poetic vision of God. It is, quite simply, one of the most astounding letters in literature.